California Dreaming

Over the years my friends have asked what brought me to New England from sunny California. I have the same answer though it’s been adjusted for age and audience. For the sake of my blog I will say it was a boy and the dream of becoming a potter. I did accomplish the pottery dream but the boy was another story for another time perhaps.

When I left California at 19 in my 1978 Datsun 610 loaded to the roof with my belongings I didn’t know I would not return to California to live. Honestly, I was just up for an adventure and a change of scene. My parents were as supportive as they could be considering their daughter was about to embark on a cross country trip in October when weather could be unpredictable. And then there was all the potential danger ahead. It was not easy to leave everyone I knew and loved and head east to the great unknown. I found humor in the fact that I was, as I’d always done, traveling my own path….head East young woman…head East was the mantra that evolved.

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Mom and Dad at the cabin in Dorrington California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains circa 1982

I must say that I have no regrets other than I have not been able to participate in my family’s life in the same way I would have had I stayed in California. I have gone home regularly through the years with my children and will continue to do so. My family is incredibly important to me and we truly enjoy spending time together. One such trip was in 2010 when my sister Patti, my brother Jim and sister in law Joanne all traveled to Reno, Nevada for our mom’s 86th birthday. It will be my dear mom’s birthday in 2 days…she would have been 91! The Reno trip was a TRIP and I’ll tell that story only with permission from those involved.

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Mom in Reno for her 86th birthday at a barbershop festival…don’t ask it was wild times for a wild woman!

So as winter holds on this year in Massachusetts, and continues to deliver more cold, snow and ice I am wondering again how I could have left sunny, warm California at 19. How did I travel across the country to Connecticut, without a good winter coat or boots I might add, and then stay all these years after? It will be a wonderment until it no longer is and I have to say I wouldn’t have wanted to miss any of it. I have three of the most talented, creative, loving children (okay so they are no longer children) and feel blessed to have met all the people I have in this life. I have strong connections to my roots in California and to my childhood friends and my family and for all this I am truly blessed.

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And so Happy Birthday mom I hope you and dad are dancing your shoes off in heaven.

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on Earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Blessed Be

Springtime and EMDR

It is a lovely sunny day here in Massachusetts with the temperature promising to reach the mid 30s. It makes me smile when I think how fixated we New Englanders are on the weather…but when you manage to smile through the winter here I think you earn some bragging rights. We have seen many days this year when the temperature did not make it out of the single digits. That kind of prolonged cold can take the pep out of your walk. Winter carries a quiet beauty I would not want to miss but it is time for warmer weather now.

I had the blessing this past weekend of attending an EMDR part 1 (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) training in Hamden CT. with two of my dear colleagues. (EMDR) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. It requires the practitioner to use intuitive skills along with traditional practice. It speaks to me as a healer. http://emdria2.affiniscape.com/index.cfm.

Being so close to Long Island Sound made me wish for Spring even more. The training was fantastic and my brain is literally full to bursting with new information to help others. When we return for the part 2 training it will be late April and Spring will be fully sharing her gifts.

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It’s time to start thinking about how my menu will begin to shift from the colder, quieter winter to vibrant, lively spring foods. This daylily is one of my favorite to show her pretty face in the late spring. I am so looking forward to spring and the new life she brings. My yard is beckoning to me to come play in the soil and return the Koi to the pond for the warmer season. It’s time to plan what will be planted in the vegetable garden and dream about which perennials will show their pretty faces first.

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One dish that I plan to prepare with some of my Health Coaching clients this weekend will be:

Bitter Greens with Shallots.

Particularly good in the spring when young greens can be found in abundance, this quick broth-sauté is cleansing for the lymph system and liver. It is blood building and a great overall tonic for the digestive system as well. Try using mustard, dandelion, arugula,  turnip, broccoli rabe, baby kale or baby collards. Serve as a side dish or toss with whole wheat pasta or soba noodles. It only takes 10 minutes to prepare and cook this dish and there are many health benefits.
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 large shallot, sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

½ pound young greens, cut into 1-inch strips

½ cup vegetable stock

2 teaspoons tamari

Preparation:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.Add greens, and toss gently to begin wilting them.

Add stock and tamari. Continue cooking until broth has reduced by about half and greens are tender, another 4 minutes.

Serve with remaining liquid drizzled over greens.

I may even serve some of my homemade organic Dandelion Wine with the meal. I can’t wait to get cooking!

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Peace is Every Step

Peace is every step

The shining red sun is my heart.

Each flower smiles with me.

How green, how fresh all that grows.

How cool the wind blows.

Peace is every step.

It turns the endless path to joy.

Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Be Well

  

A Winter’s Afternoon

ice cycles

White-Eyes

In winter

 all the singing is in
         the tops of the trees
             where the wind-bird
with its white eyes
    shoves and pushes
         among the branches.
             Like any of us
he wants to go to sleep,
    but he’s restless—
         he has an idea,
             and slowly it unfolds
from under his beating wings
    as long as he stays awake.
         But his big, round music, after all,
             is too breathy to last.
So, it’s over.
    In the pine-crown
         he makes his nest,
             he’s done all he can.
I don’t know the name of this bird,
    I only imagine his glittering beak
         tucked in a white wing
             while the clouds—
which he has summoned
    from the north—
         which he has taught
             to be mild, and silent—
thicken, and begin to fall
    into the world below
         like stars, or the feathers
               of some unimaginable bird
that loves us,
    that is asleep now, and silent—
         that has turned itself
             into snow.
Mary Oliver
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Spring is coming. The light is changing and the days are slowly lengthening. Stay warm as this cold descends upon us again and remember it will soon be spring! Make a delightful soup or stew to stay warm and feed your whole being. This is a real comfort food soup and so easy to make.

Buckwheat Soba Noodles in Broth

1 lb buckwheat soba noodles

½ cup shoyu

½ teaspoon ginger

1 cup finely chopped leak

2 cups water

2 cardomon pods

1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

½ cup shredded nori

In a medium saucepan, fry the leeks until they are tender.

Combine water, shoyu, ginger, cardomon in pot with leeks and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, bring to a simmer for approximately 15 minutes.

Add buckwheat soba noodles and cook until noodles are tender – about 5-7 minutes.

Sprinkle the sesame seeds and nori over top of soup and serve immediately

 

Peace and Brightest Blessings

Nostalgia and New Adventures

Have you ever had a nostalgic experience while enjoying a completely new adventure? Ah it is grand! Yesterday, I had a most delightful day that started with traveling to Connecticut with two of the loveliest women on Earth. We met while participating in the Macrobiotic Level 2A program at Kushi Institute earlier this month. The two on the right of the photo below were my traveling companions, Nandi from India, and Stefania from Italy.

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We were on our way to have acupuncture treatments with Dr. Shunyu Li, OMD, NCCAOM, L.Ac. whose practice just happens to be in Branford CT! http://acupuncturists.healthprofs.com/cam/name/Shunyu

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Now you might ask what the big deal is about Branford CT…and I would respond that I lived there for 5-6 years in my early 20s when I was studying pottery and herbal arts. It was a truly magical time in my life which I had not reflected on for many years until this trip. I was surprised how much things had changed in Branford, in fact, I could not find Bittersweet Farm where I studied pottery or my grandparents old home on Route 1 as it is so developed now. We did eventually find Dr Li’s office however, he was waiting at the door for us and greeted us warmly.

This was my first acupuncture treatment and so I found it very comforting to travel with women who had some insight into what I might expect. It was also wonderful to learn more about both Italy and India from the perspective of these wise women. We discussed food, of course, all we KI students talk incessantly about clean, healing foods.

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After our acupuncture treatment Stefania and brought Nandi to the train station in New Haven and then found our way to the Stony Creek town dock to have a little picnic looking out on The Thimble Islands and Long Island Sound. It was a beautiful, sunny day in the low 50s and we smiled at the contrast of the sound and the snow that met the water.

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We then took a drive from Stony Creek along route 146 to Guilford and found Tuttles Point where I was married and had lived with my former husband prior to moving to Vermont to start our family. Things had not changed much on the point and the house we lived in was still there!

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It wasn’t a fancy house by any means but the flooding of memories from that time in my life filled me with such joy. And to be sharing this excursion with Stefania who seemed to enjoy every stop we made was the joining of nostalgia and new adventure!

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Today I am filled with such peace and energy for cooking. I made this tofu stir fry this morning (I started out to make a scramble but this is where it wanted to go and so I followed). Dr. Li suggested no animal protein for at least 24 hours following my acupuncture treatment so my Sunday eggs are off the table.

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The stir fry was quite simple to make. Cut up firm tofu (I used Bridge tofu https://www.facebook.com/thebridgetofu which is local and delicious) because when traveling yesterday we stopped in Middletown CT where this tofu is made. Then marinate the tofu in shoyu, fresh ground ginger and lime juice while preparing the vegetable. I used carrot, daikon, burdock, red onion, shiitake mushrooms, green, red and yellow peppers, fresh ginger and broccoli.

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Then using safflower oil stir fry the tofu keeping aside the remaining shoyu for about 4-5 minutes until browned. Remove the tofu and add a little more oil to stir fry the vegetables until tender but not soft. Mix together with tofu add remaining shoyu and small amount of water and arrowroot to make clear glaze. Top with toasted sesame seeds.

Simple and delicious!

Peace and Brightest Blessings

Thoughts On Health

It is snowing again today in the Berkshires and very beautiful. We got about 2 feet of snow this past week. It reminds me of the fantastic snow storms we got when I was a kid in the high Sierra’s of California that dumped many feet of snow in one storm and literally snowed you in. This picture is before the storms from this week but you get the idea of how pretty things are covered in winter white.

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So I’ve been a bit under the weather this week and find it makes me a little depressed when my body is not well. I was thinking about how challenging it must be for people who are seriously ill to maintain a level of peace and happiness when trying to regain their health. I think it takes a very strong person to remain positive when faced with a serious health condition. It certainly puts things in perspective for me to stop my pouting about missing work and my life for a few days as there is a clear end in sight for my little health issue. As I grow older I know many more people who are facing serious health challenges. The experience of these beloved folks in my life is the motivation for me to become a health coach and learn all I can about improving health through diet.

I was blessed to spend a week back at Kushi Institute recently, learning more about the health benefits of foods and the styles of preparing these foods. I met a delightful group of people from around the world and learned more about cooking for health beyond the boundaries of the United States.

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These dishes are meant to be prepared during summer for optimal health. While I loved all the dishes we prepared I was especially happy with the Burdock and Sesame Dressing recipe (front left in small bowl). I will share a Burdock recipe here that is more appropriate for this colder time of the year. I do hope you enjoy it! Burdock is a wonderfully strengthening root vegetable and anyone living in New England knows it can withstand pretty much any attempt to extinguish it.

Kinpira Burdock and Carrots (this is a recipe found at Kushi Institute)

1 cup burdock root cut into matchsticks

1 cup carrot cut into matchsticks

1/8 cup toasted sesame seeds, soaked and the pan toasted

1 Tblsp toasted sesame seed oil

Scrub carrot and burdock root with a vegetable scrubber until all dirt is gone. Trim the carrot top leaving the seed by cleaning around the top.

Rinse soaked sesame seeds and place in a heavy skillet on medium-high heat. Toast the seeds constantly moving them with a bamboo spatula until the no longer stick to the spatula.

Cut carrot and burdock root in diagonal circles, fan out the circles to cut into matchsticks.

Place sesame oil in heavy skillet on medium – high heat.

Add burdock and sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Add carrots to burdock and continue to sauté for another 3-5 minutes until vegetables are soft but not overcooked.

Add the toasted sesame seeds and stir until well blended.

Kinpira style vegetables provide us with quick energy and this particular combination of carrot and burdock helps to build good quality blood and is strengthening. In macrobiotics this dish is often used in a healing diet, at times using water to sauté rather than oil for particular conditions. This dish, with oil sauté, is good for osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. When oil is used in this dish it helps the minerals get deeper into the bones.

Benefits of Carrots *

Carrots nourish almost every system in the body. They are most helpful with lung, liver and stomach function. Carrots are considered anti carcinogenic as they act to dispel toxins while moving energy in the body. They are mostly carbohydrate (89 percent) which helps to explain their sweetness. Carrots counteract intestinal gas, help to prevent constipation, stabilize blood sugar and reduce indigestion.

Carrots are the best source of antioxidant vitamin A which is a precursor to beta-carotene and they improve night vision and help to prevent senile cataracts. Carrots are rich in silicon and so aid calcium metabolism. Their potassium salts give them diuretic properties.

See attached article about benefits of cooking carrots to assure the most healthful benefits they offer.

Benefits of Burdock Root *

Burdock is familiar to most folks living in the Northeast. It is that pesky herb (weed) that deposits burrs on our clothing and our pets. The leaf of burdock is toxic but the root is full of health benefits. Burdock is classified as an herb.

Burdock stimulates bile secretions and is a good source of blood sugar insulin making it very beneficial for diabetic conditions. Burdock has the ability to restore the body to normal health by cleansing and purifying the blood, supporting digestion and the elimination of toxins, and helping to restore normal body function.

In herbal medicine Burdock is used widely in European and Asian formulas as an anti-carcinogen, to treat arthritis, for liver detoxification and for general kidney support. It also contains more protein, calcium and phosphorous than carrots and is a good source of potassium.

* Information provided from The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood.

Be Well

Winter Returns to The Berkshires- SNOWDAY KIDS

Winter is reminding us that there is still plenty of time to enjoy some fun in the snow! The view from my front porch this morning is simply beautiful…and it is so quiet when it is snowing like this.

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Last week I was talking with one of my colleagues about how much I love the snow, it has a way of making me feel 12 again. In this cynical world we could all use a return to simpler, more joyful times in our lives. When was the last time you played a game or were just plain silly for the sheer joy of it, not worrying about what anyone thought about you?

I have been given the gift of taking this week off from a job I love to participate in The Macrobitoitc Leadership Program level2A module at Kushi Institute in Becket, MA. When I woke at 5:30 this morning, as I do every morning I heard the snow plows and starting hoping for a snow day.  It was an automatic response to when I worked in the public schools and we had snow days. I chuckled and then ran (well more like shuffled so I didn’t bump into Kira the Wonderdog and her cone of shame) to the window to see just how much snow had fallen. I really didn’t want to miss my classes at Kushi Institute, but as Mother Nature would have it I’m home bound at least for the morning. The snow plow guy told me to go back inside…no travel unless we absolutely have to…POOH! I will miss Shiatsu class this morning but I’m still holding out the hope I can make it up the mountain to Kushi Institute for my afternoon classes.

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Kushi Institute main house on a sunnier snow day!

My dear friend Marty, who passed away this last year was one of those people who could find joy in just about anything. He loved sharing stories about his escapades, and it always made me laugh. One such story was when he went to the grocery store in Maine where his family had a summer cottage and he jumped on back of the shopping cart and rode it around the store, much to the chagrin of people who didn’t know him. I laughed so hard at his tales because they were authentic and because he could pull it off. Marty loved snow days, he had several rituals surrounding whether the weather would cause school to be closed. So today I am thinking about Marty, who is no doubt having his own version of a joyful snow day (though he was much more of a tropical weather sorta guy) as the schools in The Berkshires call a snow day. I hope at least some of the kids are going to find their way outside into the snow to be just plain silly today.

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Silliness is good for the heart and the soul….grab a sled and try it today!

Kira the Wonderdog & the Cone of Shame

Well it has been quite a week for Kira dog. It seems she thought eating assorted debris when bored was a good idea. Let me tell you it did not work out so well in the end. I wish Kira would have consulted with me about choosing healthier options than burlap and plastic wrappers. These items are not digestible, big surprise there, and so they found their way into her small intestine and got stuck. Kira had major life saving surgery on Thursday. Her Vet, Keith Beebe, Dvm from Wahconah Veterinary Hospital is the best Vet I have ever worked with. His expertise identified a very small piece of metal in Kira’s xray which turned out to be 8 inches of debris lodged in her small intestine that would have been fatal if not removed. I am so grateful for his care and it is clear he loves taking care of animals!

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So she looked pretty good just coming out of the hospital considering what she had just been through. On her way home with the cone of shame, which she is really unhappy about, she sat with her head between the seats in a pain medicated drool. Getting her in and out of the car was a trip. I couldn’t lift her since her entire belly and stomach have been stitched or stapled and she was not having it. My daughter Kristen came along to help so we encouraged Kira to slowly climb into the back seat with me supporting her hind end and Kristen supporting her front end. Once home she refused to get out of the car and instead bared her teeth every time I attempted to gently pull on her cone collar. We used every trick in the doggie book including setting up a quasi stable ramp from the car. If Kira could talk she would have said are you for real. She did come out of the car after 30 minutes or so and slowly made her way to my bedroom where she has been ever since.

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This morning after her medication she began to whimper which was heart wrenching. She tried to get up but her legs went out from under her and she just collapsed onto the floor. She is picking her head up and wagging her tail when I give her love but she’s not trying to move now. I do 15 minute checks and today will be cooking up a storm as that is how I cope with stress.

This is the frist dish I plan to prepare today…I will go healthy unlike my dear Kira who eats anything that is not nailed down.

French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme

1      tablespoon olive oil

1      large yellow onion, diced

1      large carrot, peeled and cut into fine dice

4      cloves garlic, minced

1      teaspoons dried tarragon

1      teaspoon dried thyme

1      teaspoon paprika (Hungarian if you’ve got it)

5      plum tomatoes, seeded and diced

6      cups water or vegetable broth

2      cups French lentils

2      bay leaves

1      1/2 teaspoons salt

Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat a large pot over medium heat and add oil. Sauté the onion and carrots for      about 10 minutes, until onions have browned a bit. Add the garlic, tarragon, thyme, and paprika, and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add the tomatoes and a little splash of water if necessary, and stir to deglaze the pot. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the water, lentils, bay      leaves, salt, and pepper, then cover and bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. If the soup looks too thin, uncover and simmer for a couple more minutes. If it looks too thick, add a  little more water. Serve with good, crusty bread.

Well that’s all for now folks. Continue to follow the saga of Kira the Wonderdog, weekly here at Kira’s Kitchen, And remember to be the person your dog thinks you are!

Blessed Be

Puzzling Out Health

I love a good puzzle or maze especially if it challenges me to think or see things differently. I love how patterns, textures and colors emerges to create a larger picture from the smaller pieces.

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I have been working on a puzzle which is a picture of many, many fancy doors from around the world. As I sit quietly searching for the perfect piece to complete a section of the puzzle it occurs to me that our lives and our health are puzzles as well. Now this is not anything Earth shattering but it inspired me to think more about how our emotions, our eating and our relationships are all so closely interwoven into the web of our health.

In my work as a Health Coach I carefully listen to stories of how people use food not only to sustain them but also to fulfill them. Some people struggle with finding the time to eat healthy, some with weight gain, and many struggle with body image. I lovingly try to guide people to their health through examining what they eat, how it makes them feel both physically and emotionally and how it brings joy to their lives.  It is my hope that in working this complex puzzle we can come to a place where the picture emerges more clearly and they can experience what they eat as joyful as well as life sustaining.

I like how Geneen Roth speaks about food and feeling. She suggests that limiting what and how we eat through diets doesn’t work. She offers what seem to be simple guidelines to becoming healthier and more spiritual in our approach to food. http://www.oprah.com/contributor/geneen-roth. While I agree in general with what she practices, I am also keenly aware that as with a challenging jigsaw puzzle finding the pieces that fit with your particular needs takes time and a great deal of patience.

Be kind to yourself and remember you are love!

“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.”

Mary Oliver

Health Coach Meets Coopers Hawk

I was driving behind a school bus this week heading to work, engaged in my morning breathing and chanting when I witnessed a Coopers Hawk fly under the bus. He was rolled over a before flying out to the side of the road. I quickly pulled over and put my hazard lights on the see if he was alive and needed care. As I approached I saw that the hawk was alive but clearly stunned…I mean who wouldn’t be after rolling under a school bus.

I wasn’t thinking about anything except can I help this beautiful creature. My daughter had witnessed a similar bird of prey, car encounter a couple weeks ago and found that a beautiful Bard Owl had not been as fortunate as this smaller Coopers Hawk. I gently smoothed his wings and picked him up to warm him a bit and assess his need. He looked directly at me as I picked him up and did not try to fly or bite…he was just assessing me in the same way I was assessing him. After holding him close and sensing he was stable I set him down on the ground. He looked a bit frazzled like this picture below (which is a juvenile Coopers Hawk) and was lifting each foot as if to see they were still attached. He shook out his wings and then looked at me again as I was crouched down next to him talking softly.

I was trying to determine if I should let him be or attempt to bring him to a bird of prey rescue center such as VINS in Woodstock Vermont. It was at that point that I said to him can you fly and like a fool showed this hawk what I meant by raising my arms as if to fly. He looked again at me and then flew from the roadside into the woods where he had a rather clumsy landing. I knew there was nothing else I could do as he had returned to his world…so I got back into my car and said a little prayer that he would be okay. I also said a prayer of gratitude for having received this beautiful gift to encounter so closely and intimately this bird of prey that I admire often in it’s natural habitat where I live.

What does the Hawk teach us as a spiritual guide?

“When you have the hawk as a spirit animal, you may have an inclination towards using the power of vision and intuition in your daily life. The hawk totem provides wisdom about seeing situations from a higher perspective, using the power of observation, and focusing on the task at hand. It’s a good companion to develop spiritual awareness.”

“Hawks teach us to look at a situation from a different perspective.  Hawk holds the key to higher consciousness and trying to bring certain things into your circle of awareness. Know that enlightenment is imminent.

Hawk often represents the ability to see meaning in ordinary experiences if you choose to become more observant.”

I encourage you to explore what you can do to help preserve these and other birds or prey. I love going to sanctuaries to see them and learn more. Vermont Institute of Natural Science http://www.vinsweb.org/ is one place I love to promote.

I am grateful for the experience and hopeful that my encounter with this beautiful hawk will inspire others to take great care in how we live with our animal brothers and sisters. We are guests in their world and are wise to tread lightly on this Earth.

Blessed Be

Thought for the Day

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Hold on to what is good

Even if it is a handful of Earth.

Hold on to what you believe

Even if it is a tree which stands by itself.

Hold on to what you must do

Even if it is a long way from here.

Hold on to life

Even if it is easier letting go.

Hold on to my hand

Even when I have gone away from you…

Nancy Wood

Peace and Brightest Blessings